Students respond and support charities in light of refugee crisis

The ‘jungle’ in Calais
Image credit: Gabriela Cecotti via CUCRAG

Cambridge students have responded to the refugee crisis by organising food and clothing collections, trips to Calais to distribute supplies and, in some cases, offering medical expertise at the camp.

Cambridge University Calais Refugee Action Group (CUCRAG) is a student-run society which organises volunteer trips every other weekend to the refugee site, working alongside CalAid, a non-governmental organization based in Calais.

Starting in early October, the group has organised five trips to the camp to date, each with roughly 15 participants from the University of Cambridge. 

CUCRAG volunteers’ main role is sorting through the donations in the CalAid warehouse in order to distribute them to the refugees. An FAQ document states: “We have gone on multiple distribution runs to the camps, handing out supplies such as coats, shoes and toiletry supplies to the refugees. Medical students have also volunteered at the doctors’ sites in the refugee camp.”

Lauren Engels, a volunteer with CUCRAG from Newnham, is encouraging others to get involved. “I believe that volunteering at Calais not only allows students to understand the situation, but also raises awareness about the horrendous living conditions.”

In November, the society was supported by CUSU council, who passed a motion to financially support the organisation’s activities with a donation of £800.

As part of the efforts made, a number of colleges, including Emmanuel, St John’s, Girton and Homerton, have recently collected clothes and money for the appeal. 

Corpus Christi has set up a permanent donation box in its JCR, which is open to donations from all students; the greatest need is for waterproof jackets and shoes as well as warm winter clothes in small sizes, since many of the clothes already sent have been found to be too large. 

Charities in Calais, such as CalAid, have expressed the need for regular volunteer assistance for sorting and distributing the thousands of donations that they receive each day.

By collecting food and clothing and working in the Calais distribution centre, students in Cambridge continue to play a direct role in ensuring that the refugees receive the aid. 

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